MLB Offseason: Donaldson signs in Atlanta
Greg Jewett takes a look at the Braves Cyber Monday deals signing both Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and what it means for the team in 2019.
Atlanta made signed two free agents on Cyber Monday addressing two needs and getting veterans to further bolster its clubhouse. Josh Donaldson agreed to a one-year deal worth $23 million dollars to not only play third base, but hit cleanup as well. Rumored to be interested in J.T. Realmuto , the Braves signed Brian McCann to one year contract as a catching complement to Tyler Flowers . Minnesota claimed C.J. Cron off of waivers but it remains to be seen if he will be a part of the team prior to the end of the non-tender period. Pittsburgh needs to fill-in for Grégory Polanco , slated to return by June from his rehab, and signed oft-injured Lonnie Chisenhall to potentially do so. Now for the fantasy ramifications of these moves.
Donaldson and McCann head to Atlanta
Limited to only 52 games last year, Josh Donaldson disappointed in fantasy. Shoulder and calf injuries derailed his season but it also masks his finish in Cleveland. Over the last three years, Donaldson carries a .273/.389/.537 slash with 78 home runs and 200 RBI in 1,179 at-bats. Of course, he’s also only averaged 107 per year in this time frame.
However, ignoring his 15.1 walk percentage, 21.4 home run to fly ball percent and 39.4 hard hit rate would be frivolous. Nick Markakis affably filled in as the cleanup hitter in Atlanta last year logging 157 games at this spot in the lineup. As a group, the Braves fourth spot in the lineup produced 13 home runs, 89 RBI, a .292 average but a .794 on-base plus slugging. Using Donaldon’s three year .926 on-base plus slugging as a baseline, it should be an upgrade.
Plus, with Donaldson finally being healthy in September, he recorded a .280/.400/.520 line with the same amount of strikeouts as walks, a weighted runs created plus of 149 and a hard hit rate of 50 percent within this 16 game sample. Here’s a look at his rolling hard hit rates the last three years, note the spike as 2018 ends:
There’s been peaks and valleys tied to his health, but if he can stay on the field for the Braves, a bounce back season could lie in the offing. Donaldson also should transition well to his new home. Here’s his spray chart from the last years with all of his batted ball data of fly balls and line drives as an overlay in SunTrust Stadium:
With this addition, the top of Atlanta’s lineup could match up with any in baseball. Steamer’s early projection of 478 at-bats with 83 runs, 27 home runs, 73 RBI, four stolen bases and a .257/.366/.485 slash seems like a solid baseline. Of course, Donaldson staying healthy will be a concern to those investing in him for fantasy.
Steamer does seem to ignore his slash line from the last three years, relying more upon his .246/.352/.449 from last year, so Donaldson should be able to hit in the .265-to-.275 range. His overall value for fantasy will ultimately be decided by how many games he can accrue. Owners of Johan Camargo in keeper formats will not appreciate this signing, but Camargo’s presence can also keep Donaldson fresh.
It looks as though Atlanta will try to get Camargo four-to-six games a week moving around the infield in a Marwin González type mold. He also ensures Donaldson does not need to play every day. Almost all of the Steamer projections feel right for Donaldson, so if he can stay healthy, this looks like a very savvy signing by the Braves for the season ahead. It also allows prospect Austin Riley more time to develop.
Atlanta also added a veteran catcher to assume shared duties with Tyler Flowers . Since Brian McCann ’s already spent much of his career with the franchise, transitioning back should not be a problem. However, McCann’s days of fantasy relevancy may have passed. He only hit .212/.301/.339 in 63 games with Houston last year scoring 32 runs with seven home runs and 23 RBI. Steamer projects him for 265 at-bats with 31 runs, 11 home runs and 35 RBI with a .226/.310/.389 slash. Due to this limited upside, McCann should be viewed as a second catcher in league only formats.
C.J. Cron to the Twins
Although Minnesota claimed C.J. Cron from the Rays off of waivers, it remains to be seen if he will be with the team as the season starts. Cron’s coming off of a career year in which he scored 68 runs with 30 home runs and 74 RBI in 501 at-bats. He hit a respectable .253/.323/.493 but yielded at-bats late in the year to Ji-Man Choi and with Jake Bauers taking over first base, Cron became expendable in Tampa Bay.
Cron will bring a home run per fly ball percentage of 21.4 to Minnesota and a hard hit percentage of 39.6 last year as well. Hitting for power in Tampa can be difficult, but Cron’s power should translate well to his new home. Here’s his spray chart of fly balls and line drives in his new home:
What the Twins, and fantasy owners will need to do, is figure out what the team will do with Cron and his almost mirror image, Tyler Austin . Adding Cron to a lineup with Austin and Miguel Sano will provide power, but will they make enough consistent contact?
It’s apparent Cron made strides in his power production last year and he built on it in the second half. Using his xSTATS, Cron’s expected slash line of .262/.333/.484 with 27.7 expected home runs should ensure a near repeat of last season. But with so many similar profiles in his new environment, it will be interesting to see how the Twins build their lineup and if Cron remains on the roster. Stay tuned.
Chisenhall to the Pirates
Losing Grégory Polanco to injury, Lonnie Chisenhall addresses a clear need for the Pirates in the outfield and as a left-handed bat. Although limited to only 29 games last year, Chisenhall’s shown improvement as a hitter through the years. Over the last three seasons, he’s slashed a cumulative .291/.347/.468 in 705 at-bats.
Limited by playing time issues and injuries, Chisenhall’s not been able to produce enough to be a fantasy relevant player. His strong slash accompanies a career 9.1 home run per fly ball rate. As a potential fill-in for Polanco, he makes perfect sense. But his Steamer projection of 279 at-bats with 32 runs, eight home run, 35 RBI and three steals seems spot on. Plan accordingly.
There’s plenty more hot stove details ahead, so stick with Fantasy Alarm to stay ahead of the competition.